Friday, July 25, 2014

title pic How to Sew a 1950s Crinoline Underskirt

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on August 12, 2011

Hello Ladies

This is the first entry in our Walkaway Dress Sew-Along!  Since we probably need a little more time to purchase our patterns and fabric, I will begin by demonstrating how to sew a 1950s crinoline!  While the crinoline underskirts of the 50s were actually just like tiered skirts made of ruffled tulle and net, I’ve found that you can achieve the same silhouette with only two yards of stiff crinoline or netting and 1/4 yard of lining fabric.  My other reason for not making a completely authentic 1950s petticoat is that the walkaway dress has that front sheath panel which does not allow for skirt fullness in front.  So I discovered how to make a crinoline that only pouffs out in the sides and back, leaving the front piece undisturbed.  It is so simple to make, and I’ve given a tutorial on how to sew this below. 



This 1950s petticoat is for sale at

History of the 1950s Crinoline Underskirt



 After the fabric rationing of World War II, women’s “New Look” fashions required full crinolines or petticoats to hold out their enormous, circular skirts.  While I’ve never seen one of these original 50s crinoline slips in person, I’ve talked with several ladies who actually wore them while in high school in the 1950s.  They all seemed to say the same thing: 

  •  ”We would wear lots of petticoats, not just one, and when our petticoats got too soft, we would just buy another one and wear it on top of the old ones!  The rich girls would wear as many as nine petticoats at a time… ” “I remember when we were driving away on our honeymoon, the whole back rack of our car was filled with all my crinolines hanging up!’
  • “The 50s crinolines were not actually made of stiff crinoline, they were more like a tulle or netting.”
  • “These crinoline petticoats looked just like a tiered, ruffled skirt.  Each ruffled tier was bigger than the one above it.   
And one lady even shared
how to starch a 1950s crinoline petticoat:


“I remember how to starch a crinoline to make it stand out more – I would soak the petticoat in water that was mixed with Knox gelatin, then I would lay it out flat in a big circle on the basement floor.  In the morning when I went to put it on, the skirt would just stand straight out to the sides!  Of course by the end of the day it would start to wilt, but for hours it would just puff right out!”  (The petticoat shown above can be purchased at Blue Velvet Vintage.)

So now let’s get to sewing!  I recommend sewing your crinoline before you start your dress, so you will have the appropriate foundation garments to give you that classy 50s silhouette.  If you try on your dress without the crinoline, it may be just a tiny bit discouraging to look in the mirror and think, “This doesn’t look quite how I had hoped.” 

Wearing a 1950s crinoline skirt is just grand, and once you’ve sewn one you’ll be so glad you did!  It will only cost you about $4 and take just a couple of minutes, so at least by the time you finish your walkaway dress you really should make one! 

How to Sew a 1950s Crinoline Petticoat

You will need:

  • 1/4 yard of 45″ wide  lightweight lining (polyester, rayon, acetate, or China silk)
  • 2 yards of 54″ wide crinoline (stiff netting will not work as well, but is a substitute)
  • 3/4 yd. – 1 1/4 yds. of elastic (enough to go around your waist)
  1.  Take your 1/4 yard of lining and finish one long end of it (45″ wide) with a serger or zigzag stitch.  Repeat on the other long end.          
  2. Fold down one finished edge of the lining approx 1/4″ more than the width of your elastic and press.
  3. Stitch the casing closed and set lining aside.
  4. Cut the crinoline across the width every 18″, so you will now have four pieces that are 54″ by 18″.
  5. With two of your cut crinoline pieces, join the short ends of these two pieces at the selvage so that you have one long piece that is 18″ by 108″.   (Leave as one long strip, do not attach final ends to form a circle.)Now place a row of gathering stitches along one 108″ edge.
  6. Pull up the gathering threads, pin this gathered edge to the bottom of the lining piece, and stitch in place.
  7. Now take your other two pieces of crinoline and cut them across the width at 9-inch increments to give you four pieces that are 54″ by 9″.
  8. Sew the four 9″ panels together at the short ends, for one long piece that is 9″ by 216″. (Leave as one long strip, do not attach final ends to form a circle.)
  9. Gather one of the 216″ long edges, pull up the threads, and pin the gathered edge to the inside of your crinoline slip.  The bottom edge of this ruffle should match up with the bottom of the crinoline petticoat.  Once your ruffle is pinned in place, just stitch it in place!
  10. You’re almost done!  Now simply run your elastic through the casing you made in the top of the lining, and stitch the two ends of the elastic together.  Note that you do not want to catch the lining in this seam! 

You want to be able to adjust the fullness of the petticoat by sliding it off to the sides.  This way you can pull the crinoline all the way around your waist for a full circle skirt, or slide it towards the sides to wear with your walkaway dress! retro-butterick-pattern-4790                 

Once you’ve put on your walkaway dress, fasten the front piece at the back waist as indicated by the pattern, then pull the crinoline up over the front sheath part.  Fluff out the crinoline skirt for fullness, then snap the wraparound piece closed and arrange the circle skirt over the crinoline.   You can slide the lining off toward the sides, so that the only part of the dress that has crinoline underneath is the full circular part.  (And of course if you ever choose to wear this for a 50s dress that does not have an opening down the front, just distribute the gathers evenly around the elastic  and your whole skirt will pouff out!)

That’s all there is to it!  Hope you enjoy sewing it, and feel free to post any questions you might have.            butterick-4790-retro-dress-with-crinoline

On August 16th we will start cutting out our pattern to fit it, (Butterick 4790), and each following week we will make more progress on the walkaway dress.  I believe we can sew the whole thing in one month’s time, and at the end of that we’ll have a 1950s dress “party” where we will all post pictures of the finished dresses!


title pic The 1950s Walkaway Dress Sew-Along!

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on August 8, 2011


Hello Ladies!  It looks like quite a few of us would all like to do a 1950s Walkaway Dress sew-along, so Edelweiss Patterns is going to host one here! If you have ever wondered how to sew a 1950s dress, you will love this sew-along.   Using the Butterick Retro Pattern 4790, we will make the necessary alterations to sew an authentic 1950s walkaway dressIn the next few days, I will begin posting instructions for how to get started by sewing a crinoline skirt before we jump right into the pattern itself.  It is not necessary to wear a corset or girdle with this dress (that option is up to you), but once you finish you dress you probably will want to make a crinoline for the authentic 1950s silhouette.

(In case you haven’t read my posts on how to fit this vintage dress pattern, you may want to do so before starting to sew your dress – most ladies who have sewn this pattern have complained about the fit, but I figured out how to fix Butterick 4790, so the fit shouldn’t be any problem!)

  So now is the time to pick out your fabrics for your 1950s dress! 

What Fabrics to Use for a 1950s Walkaway Dress

You can sew the walkaway dress out of virtually any woven fabric that has a fair amount of body to it.  For a classy 1950s party dress, you could use a taffeta, duchesse satin, crepe-back satin, or faille.  If you choose a cotton broadcloth, gingham, or linen, you will end up with the quintessential “1950s housewife” dress!


This was the original cover-art for the Butterick "Walk-Away" Dress.

We will most likely begin cutting out our pattern in a week or so (around August 15th), and in the meantime you could even find a bargain “practice” fabric to make sure you perfect the fit before sewing a dress out of expensive fashion fabric.  In fact, that’s exactly what I did with my orange faille 1950s dress – I made the whole dress for about $12 after finding the orange material on the clearance rack!  As it is, I almost like the practice version better than the more expensive dress anyhow.  So if anyone wants to just perfect the fit for this first time of sewing it and hold off on using luxurious material, that is totally fine.


Here's a sketch of the 1950s "walkaway dress" which I drew up for this sew-along!

As the pattern illustration shows, you can either sew the entire dress out of the same material, or opt for the front sheath panel to be a contrasting color I suggest printing off the illustration I drew above, then filling it in with different colors or even fabric swatches to get a preview of how your dress will look before you purchase a whole 5 yards of fabric.

I am starting out with a post on how to make a 1950s crinoline that is designed specifically for the walkaway dress.  You will be able to make it with just 1/4 yard of lining material and 2 yards of crinoline!

So stay tuned for more updates!  We will begin studying how to sew this 1950s dress soon.  And be sure to grab this button for the sew-along that you can add to your blog if you like. (Thanks to Sarah for sending in this original 1950s magazine ad for the Butterick Pattern!)

Here is the list of posts for this sew-along:

How to Sew a 1950s Crinoline Underskirt

Week 1 of the Sew-Along (How to Fit Butterick 4790)

Week 2 of the Sew-Along (Sewing the Darts, Skirt, and Shoulder Seams)

Week 3 of the Sew-Along (Bias Binding, Snaps, and Hemming Your Dress)

1950s Sew-Along Dress Results with Pictures!
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If you have any questions, feel free to post them below.  We’re going to have fun!



title pic “I Love Lucy” Costumes-In Remembrance of Her 100th Birthday!

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on August 5, 2011


Lucy's attempts at sewing prove no better than many of her other experiments.

“Lucy, you have some ‘splainin’ to do!!”

Lucille’s 100th Birthday

An I Love Lucy costume on display at the Lucy/Desi Museum.

If you are an “I Love Lucy” fan at all, this is an exciting day!  Today, on August 6th, we celebrate the 100th birthday of Mrs. “I Love Lucy” herself – Lucille Ball!  Not only that, but this year also marks the 60th anniversary of the “I Love Lucy” tv series first airing on television back in 1951!  It went on to be one of the most popular shows of all time, boasting such devoted fans as First Lady Mamie Eishenhower!  Between the live studio laughter, charming 1950s set, the endearing characters, and uproariously hilarious humor, “I Love Lucy” has captured the hearts of fans for decades, and shows no signs of stopping any time soon!

Celebrations are being held in Lucy’s hometown where the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Center hopes to break the world record for “most people dressed as Lucille Ball at one time”.  And you know it’s more than just an old-fashioned comedy show when Google adds a vintage “I Love Lucy” clip to their home page for the day!

Rare I Love Lucy Photographs


If you click on this picture, you should be able to read the entire article!

In honor of these celebrations, I would like to share some vintage images from a 1953 rare treasure that I just received from an estate sale.  This 1953 edition of “Family Life” magazine contained terrific behind-the-scenes photos shot on the filming stage for the film, “The Long, Long Trailer”.  While I haven’t watched it myself, it sounds like a feature-length I Love Lucy episode filmed as an entire movie, just with different names for the characters


Desi and Lucille pose as newlyweds in "The Long, Long Trailer".

For this movie Lucy and Ricky posed as newlyweds, and if you look closely Lucy’s wedding dress may remind you very strongly of Princess Catherine’s wedding dress!  It certainly reminds of the royal wedding dress much more than Grace Kelly’s gown, which was the dress everyone attributed the recent royal gown design to. 

MGM's copyrighted illustration for "The Long, Long Trailer"


Lucille Ball's original film costume from the mentioned television special was sold on Profiles in History in June 2011 by Debbie Reynolds.












I Love Lucy Costumes


One of Eloise's superb costume designs for the I Love Lucy series.

The costume designer for much of the series was Elois Jennsen, who worked closely with Lucy to ensure that her unique style came through the screen.  Lucille’s costumer did a fabulous job of keeping her well-dressed, and her already trim figure was elongated even more with three inch high heels and slenderizing 1950s dresses.  The “I Love Lucy” costumes were not all serious, though, and the poor costume designer must have thrown her hands up when it came to episodes where Lucy’s eccentric personality led her to dress as a baseball player, clown, moustached news reporter, or much worse! 

Lucy's Homemade Dress from "I Love Lucy" show

Lucy Ricardo pouts after her first attempt to sew herself a dress. Notice the uneven collar, with one set-in sleeve and another puffy sleeve.

In the episode, “Lucy Wants New Furniture”, Lucy attempts to sew herself a dress with hilariously disastrous results!  And quite uncharacteristingly, the whole Ricardo and Mertz clan went waltzing about their work in turn of the century Victorian costumes during Lucy and Ethel’s portrayal of  “Pioneer Women”.


Ethel and Lucy don proper 1890 Victorian dresses and curly updos.

Of all the I Love Lucy costumes, I am particularly fond of the flared bias cut skirts that Lucy wore with crossover wrap blouses, as well as the famous checked pencil-skirt dress worn for  the legendary “Chocolate Factory” episode.  And since every appliance and piece of furniture from the tv set was copied and marketed to loyal fans of the day, I can only imagine that Lucille was quite a trend setter in 50s fashions for the American housewife! 


This bias cut skirt was most becoming on Lucille Ball.

In recent months I have come across a fabulous resource for free “I Love Lucy” episodes on this website.  Film Classics website holds a virtual library of episodes, offering over six seasons of the classic television series online for watching enjoyment.  If you love Lucy, it’s something you won’t want to miss!  And if you love 1950s dresses as much as I do, you may enjoy seeing some of my recent Lucille-inspired creations here.  Enjoy!